iPad App Video Review: SpellTower

by Andrew Koziara

SpellTower is the latest app from solo developer Zach Gage. Zach usually puts out games with more abstract design, such as Halcyon or Bit Pilot, but he's decided to challenge himself by making a game in a genre that he is not at all a fan of; word games. The resulting product is probably one of the better word games I've played. It's fun and challenging without being overly complex, and it's generally well done and definitely worth a look if you own an iPad.

The game presents you with a very simple set of rules, and each mode makes use of them. You simply swipe through letters to spell out words of three or more on a randomized grid. Getting a five letter word clears every surrounding letter, while forming words with hard to use letters such as X and Z result in an entire row being cleared, Tetris style. To complicate things a bit, certain letters will have a number in the top right corner, and that number dictates the length of the word that letter must be used in. In every mode, there is no penalty for making mistakes or spelling out fake words, so you're free to do some guess work.

These basic rules carry over into the four game modes, the first being Tower Mode. Tower Mode is by far the most casual and easy going of the modes. It starts you off with a screen full of letters, and your job is to get as many words out of the tower as you can. You can stop and submit your score at any time by simply hitting the "done" button. The other modes are quite a different story, however.

Puzzle Mode acts as a kind of reverse Tetris. Every time you successfully spell a word, a new row of letters is added to the bottom of the screen. There is no time limit, but every move you make has to be carefully considered. There is a lot of strategy involved when it comes to where you make your moves, as you want to avoid single stack towers with no possible word combinations in them. Extreme Puzzle is the same thing, except you're thrown more vowels and difficult letters than you really know what to do with. The final variation of the game is Rush Mode. Here, a new row of letters is added after a certain interval of time, so it's puzzle mode on speed, basically. Although, the letters seemed much more forgiving, and you're allowed to eliminate as many words as you can find between row additions, so it is easier in some regard.

These aren't all completely original mechanics, but they've been done very well here. I really enjoyed the game, even though it made my brain hurt. The visual design is elegant and simplistic, making use of bright colors, and the sound design matches these aesthetics. There is currently Game Center leaderboard support, and achievements will be added in a later date. Mr. Gage has plenty of other plans for new content, so you can expect this already excellent game to get ever more diverse and polished over time. Hopefully it reaches the iPhone eventually, but if you have an iPad, it can be yours for just two dollars.

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